Arizona Onstage Productions has an offer that's hard to refuse:

A promise of your money back if you don't like "Closer Than Ever," a musical revue that previews tonight and opens Friday.

"A $30 ticket is a lot of money," says Kevin Johnson, the founder of the theater company and director of the play.

"I want to take the hesitation out. If they come to the show and don't feel they were part of a high-quality, professional experience, they can let me know and we will mail a check for the refund."

Johnson is pretty confident in the production. And he has good reason to be: His cast consists of seasoned professionals who know how to shape a song.

And the little-known play by Richard Maltby Jr. and David Shire has won fans ever since it was first staged in 1989.

Here's the scoop on "Closer Than Ever."

The History

Maltby and Shire are musical-theater veterans - Maltby wrote the lyrics for "Miss Saigon" and a number of other plays; among Shire's credits are the music for the musical "Big" and a number of pop songs.

The two have long been writing partners, and often lamented the songs that didn't make the final cut in a show.

So a music revue was put together and proved to be so popular, the two expanded it. "Closer Than Ever," which they call a "bookless book musical," is the result. It has been on the regional theater circuits for years.

The music

"Closer" has 26 songs and no dialogue. The songs don't hook together to create a story.

Instead, says Johnson, each song is a story in itself.

"These were written for and about people in their lives," he says.

"The songs evoke specific honest emotion. 'If I Sing' is one Maltby wrote for his father, who was his inspiration for writing music. He talks about getting older, and how his father can't play anymore. Some are quite humorous - one is about working out and trying to lose weight and how hard it is. Then there's one of my favorites - 'The Bear, the Tiger, the Hamster and the Mole,' a woman going off on why exactly is it that she needs a man in her life."

The reviews

• The New York Times on the 2012 revival of "Closer than Ever": "Among the (play's) abundant charms ... is its assertion that folks with a few miles on the odometer also have stuff to sing about. More stuff, in fact."

• The Epoch Times about the same production: "Here's a tune-filled and emotionally rewarding musical that tickles and delights, warms the heart, and sometimes injects a bittersweet edge." about a 2009 Washington production: "If you have a love for lyrics and verbal jousts and a passionate appreciation for the way they can, in the hands of a master, reveal things you think but never thought anyone knew you did, then run ... to 'Closer Than Ever.' "

If you go

• What: "Closer Than Ever."

• Playwrights: Richard Maltby and David Shire.

• Director: Kevin Johnson.

• Music director: Elliot Jones.

• When: Previews at 8 p.m. today; opening is 8 p.m. Friday. Regular performances are 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays through Aug. 18. No performance Aug. 16.

• Where: The Cabaret Theatre at the Temple of Music and Art, 330 S. Scott Ave.

• Tickets: $20 preview; $30 for regular performances, with discounts available - and a money-back guarantee if you don't enjoy it.

• Reservations/information: or 882-6574.

• Cast: Liz Cracchiolo, Amy Erbe, Brian Levario and Kit Runge.

• Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes, with one intermission.

Contact reporter Kathleen Allen at or 573-4128.